Why Ernst Lubitsch?
Well, let me talk about when I became aware of him.
I’d seen a couple of his films before, mostly the original To Be or Not to Be, but his name never really registered, and then the Criterion Collection announced the Blu-ray release of Cluny Brown in June of 2019, and it became something of an instant sensation because the cover art was so hilariously bad. The title character looked like a robot. If I remember correctly, they slightly redesigned it and it looks slightly better, but it brought the Lubitsch name to my attention. I scrolled through the Criterion Collection’s list and realized that they had release about ten of his films in the DVD era. “Who is this guy that they love so much?” I never really found out.
Skip ahead a few years, and I’m reading Dancing on the Edge about Billy Wilder by Joseph McBride, and Lubitsch was actually fairly important to Wilder in general and the later stages of his writing career specifically. Wilder cowrote two of Lubitsch’s films (Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife and Ninotchka), but he also saw Lubitsch as something of a model, his films The Emperor Waltz and Avanti coming closest to Wilder imitating Lubitsch’s style. He had a sign in his office that read, “How would Lubitsch do it?”
Well, that was it. I had to figure out who this Lubitsch character was.
So, here we are. Let’s find out! As with everything, I’m watching as much as I can in terms of feature films. Lubitsch started working in Germany for Ufa, and he had a solid decade working in German silent films before Mary Pickford brought him to Hollywood to work together. Once in Hollywood, he never left, dying young in 1947 at only 55 years old.
Let’s discover this Lubitsch guy.